Working long hours is common among people in demanding occupations. While the odd late night of work might not be an issue, working long hours frequently for long periods of time can potentially have negative effects on health and wellbeing.

Long working hours can increase stress levels, lead to sleep deprivation and affect overall mood and capacity to concentrate. Some research has also linked long working hours to increased risk of adverse heart outcomes. The quality of this evidence, however, has been mixed and limited by potential confounding factors.

Researchers analysed the available research on long working hours and heart disease, focusing on its association with incident stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD).

The meta-analysis involved studies that examined the effects of working hours and reported outcomes of stroke or CHD. The results were adjusted for other potential risk factors for stroke and CHD including smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index and physical activity levels. All participants were free of the conditions of interest at the beginning of the study.

The definition of long working hours varied between studies, from 45 hours or more per week to 55 hours or more. Working long hours was found to be associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke and, to a lesser extent, CHD.

Implications

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that illustrates the potentially damaging effects of a stressful working environment and long work hours.

In addition to these results, increased hours spent sitting at a desk may increase the risk of a number of conditions (see sitting and physical activity story this issue). It’s important to maintain some level of work-life balance for a healthy heart, as well as a healthy mind and body.

Last Reviewed: 25/10/2019

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

Kivimaki, M et al. (2015). Long working hours and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published and unpublished data for 603 838 individuals. Lancet, 386, 1739-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60295-1.